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The Victorian Medical Establishment & the Fear of Female Hysteria

March 21, 2019 @ 6:30 pm - 8:30 pm

From ‘the Maniac of Bedlam’ to Miss Havisham and Bertha Rochester, the concept of the ‘mad woman’ was a popular Victorian trope. ‘Madwomen’, both real and imaginary, became popular bogeywomen at a time when the medical establishment ruled that women were prone to madness simply by being female.

In this talk, Catharine Arnold will examine the prevailing attitudes of the medical establishment towards ‘female hysteria’ and some of the remarkable women who survived their treatment at ‘Bedlam’ and other institutions.

At a period when a diagnosis of insanity proved a convenient way to confine a woman to the madhouse for life, she will examine how some forms of ‘mad doctoring’ were actually a form of social control and it was the doctors, rather than their patients, who were to be feared. Many medical ‘cures’ for hysteria were cruel and unusual, as the medical establishment vainly attempted to control the terrifying prospect of female sexuality.

Catharine Arnnold is a writer and television presenter with an interest in the dark side of London’s history. Catharine’s books include Bedlam London and its Mad, Necropolis London and its Dead, Globe Life in Shakespeare’s London and Pandemic 1918, a study of the Spanish flu epidemic of 1918.

This talk is part of our Fear Series.

Doors will open at 6:30 PM. The talk will begin at 7:00 PM.

Tickets: £12.00

*Access is through a 52-step spiral staircase. Please, visit our Visiting Us page for further details on access.


March 21, 2019
6:30 pm - 8:30 pm
Event Category:


The Old Operating Theatre Museum


The Old Operating Theatre Museum
9A St Thomas Street
London, SE1 9RY United Kingdom
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